When Immigration Crashed The System

Ilya Somin argues that President Joe Biden’s proclamation on securing the border is likely ultra vires, and will eventually be struck down. The ACLU has already announced that it’s taking it to court, because it involves one of its favored groups, so of course it is. And they will likely prevail, eventually. But in the meantime, there is a crisis at the southern border, an influx of immigrants that the United States lacks the resources and infrastructure to absorb. Something must be done.

There’s no denying that the executive order President Biden signed on Tuesday — significantly curtailing the number of asylum seekers allowed into the country — is a head-spinning reversal for a president who promised to undo Donald Trump’s policies at the border. It’s worth remembering that Biden wasn’t alone on that front. Eight out of 10 Democrats running in the presidential primaries said in 2019 that they would make walking across the border without permission a civil infraction, like a traffic ticket, instead of a criminal offense.

Open borders is a dream of the left fringe and libertarians. America desperately needs low wage workers to fill the jobs Americas refuse to perform, or can’t afford if workers were paid full freight. Some crossing the border are criminals, or at least not disinclined to commit a crime if it serves their interest. Most are people fleeing poverty and the intransigent violence of their native countries. Not unlike most of our own ancestors, who also came here to find a better life. Some not too long ago, mind you.

But immigration’s greatest utility at the moment seems to be its nature as a crisis, which can be more useful politically than solved. Everyone agrees it needs to be fixed, so naturally it hasn’t.

Welcoming newcomers with dignity is important, but our capacity to do so is not infinite. For that reason, I don’t fault the Biden administration for trying to turn down the spigot. My biggest question is why it took so long.

What exactly is meant by welcoming newcomers with dignity is unclear. Have border patrol put leis around their neck and hand them a pina colada when they wade across the Rio Grande? Call them “sir” or “madam” as they’re herded into the holding area? It was one thing when there were a handful of immigrants, then called illegal aliens, sneaking through the border with the help of a pernicious coyote, risking being left in the wilderness to die once their money was paid. But did anybody anticipate it would come to this?

Since then, the welcoming tone and policies of the Biden administration have attracted more migrants from around the world than American voters want to absorb. The number of people crossing the border has more than doubled — from one million in 2018 to 2.5 million in 2023, according to the Migration Policy Institute. As they arrive by the busload in cities like New York, Boston and Chicago, they have strained budgets and social services upon which vulnerable Americans depend.

The problem for Biden is that this will be seen as yet another betrayal by his left fringe, atop his new moniker as “Genocide Joe.” He went from Trump lite on immigration to double Trump with this shift. And, as Ilya notes, it also violates the Refugee Act of 1980 which entitled every immigrant, whether at a border crossing or not, whether they use an app or just, you know, ask, the opportunity to seek asylum.

It is not fair, however, to say that Biden is just like Trump now on immigration. Biden has rightly done a lot to expand legal pathways for asylum seekers and other migrants. The asylum claims of people who manage to make an appointment through an online app — roughly 1,500 per day — will continue to be processed.

Those on the left who are sure to criticize this action as a betrayal should reflect on whether their advocacy has sent the Democratic Party down a political blind alley. If we want to protect the right to asylum, we can’t ignore the widespread abuse of that system.

The majority of Americans recognize immigration not merely as a high priority problem, but as an untenable crisis. And yet, there is no outcry from an immediate bipartisan solution in Congress. So Biden, like his presidential predecessors, is going to take action that will alienate him from his progressive wing and, he hopes, be appreciated by the majority, even if it’s unlawful and beyond his authority.

But the immigration system has crashed, and something must be done. This is something. That’s the best our government appears capable of doing nowadays. It’s not a good solution. But what is the alternative?

13 thoughts on “When Immigration Crashed The System

  1. jfjoyner3

    Is it possible that the voices in opposition to illegal, or uncontrolled, or unmanaged entry receive more attention because of recent changes (perceived or real) in enforcement within urban environments? If these new residents of our cities were recognized as 100% law-abiding and tax-paying, always found helping little old ladies get across the street, would these voices be so pitched? Is this a case of 1 issue plus 1 issue = 3 x volume? Within my memory, the immigration problem has been unsolved from Reagan (or earlier) until today. Just wondering what you think about this.

    1. Miles

      Upon entry, they need to be housed, fed, educated and provided medical care. What they will become later doesn’t change the fact that the states can’t provide for them today.

      And to add insult to injury, can’t provide for American citizens in need of the same services.

      1. IdahoSilverMiner

        “Some crossing the border are criminals, or at least not disinclined to commit a crime if it serves their interest. Most are people fleeing poverty and the intransigent violence of their native countries”

        Assuming facts not in evidence. We can only wish, hope or pray that the above is true and that the ‘most’ or ‘some’ are not inversed.

        1. LY

          By definition, everyone crossing the border illegally is a criminal. Given that they have already shown their disregard for our laws how can we believe that they will show any more respect down the line?

  2. B. McLeod

    This is simply posturing due to the proximity of elections, after actively contributing to the problem for four years. If Biden is reelected, we’ll be back to open borders the next day.

  3. Pedantic Grammar Police

    I vaguely remember a time when immigration wasn’t such a huge problem, and then a wise and benevolent president reversed all of the hateful, racist policies enacted by his evil predecessor, and then somehow the problem got worse. Probably just a coincidence.

  4. Earl Wertheimer

    “Open borders is a dream of the left fringe and libertarians.”
    One of these things is not like the other. Libertarians also want to eliminate welfare. Most of the left sees welfare as a feature.
    Welfare and other state provided services are a magnet for millions looking for a better life without toil.
    A quick way to reduce illegal immigration would be to reduce or eliminate welfare.
    Our parents and grand-parents came here in search of a better life. There was no expectation that the citizens (via government) would house, feed and educate them and their children.

    The legal immigration system is not much better. Slow and overloaded.

    How about this: Let anyone enter the country who agrees to forgo welfare and pay taxes on earnings for the services received. It worked for my grandparents…

  5. phv3773

    So, the guys down by the Thruway exit, standing around hoping someone will hire them for three hours clearing brush. You think they’re on welfare?


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